Afro-American Folksongs - online book

A Study In Racial And National Music, With Sample Sheet Music & Lyrics.

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SONGS OF THE BLACK CREOLES
of observation were keen and his intuitions quick and penetrating. He felt what I have described as the imposi­tion of French and Spanish melody on African rhythm.
This union of elements is found blended with the French patois in the songs created by the creole negroes in Louisiana and the West Indies. Hearn came across an echo of the most famous of all Creole love-songs in St. Pierre and in his fantastic manner gave it a habitation and a name. De­scribing the plague of smallpox in a chapter of "Two Years in the French West Indies," he tells of hearing a song com­ing up through the night, sung by a voice which had "that peculiar metallic timbre that reveals the young negress."
Always it is one "melancholy chant":
Pauv' ti Lele,
Pauv' ti Lele!
Li gagnin doule, doule, doule,—
Le gagnin doule
Tout patout!
I want to know who little Lele was, and why she had pains "all over"— for however artless and childish these Creole songs seem, they are invariably originated by some real incident. And at last somebody tells me that "poor little Lele had the reputation of being the most unlucky girl in St. Pierre; whatever she tried to do resulted only in misfortune;—when it was morning she wished it were evening, that she might sleep and forget; but when the night came she could not sleep for thinking of the trouble she had had during the day, so that she wished it were morning. ..."
Perhaps "Pov' piti Lolotte" (a portion of whose melody served Gottschalk, a New Orleans creole of pure blood, for one of his pianoforte pieces), came from the West Indies originally, but it is known throughout Creoleland now. It fell under the notice of Alphonse Daudet, who,Tiersot says, put it in the mouth of one of his characters in a novel. Out of several versions which I have collected I have put the song together, words and melody, in the form in which Mr. Burleigh has arranged it. (See page 136.) It is worth noting that the coda of the melody was found only in the transcript made from the singing of the slaves on the Good Hope plantation, in St. Charles Parish, La., and that this coda presents a striking use of the rhythmical snap which I have discussed in connection with the "spirit­uals," but which is not found in any one of them with so much emotional effect as here. In his essay in "The Cen-
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III